A Possibility Becomes Reality: Integrating The Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce
Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of technological innovation that really changed the way nonprofits approached their work. Raiser’s Edge 7 brought unprecedented sophistication to (and established new standards for) fundraising data management when it first came out. Peer-to-peer fundraising was changed forever by Convio. Salesforce’s entry into the sector pushed everyone to think of openness and expansion in whole new ways.
Today, there’s another shift we’re noticing that we’re particularly excited about, one that brings the best of these prior evolutions together: Solution vendors across the sector are embracing the idea of integrating systems in unprecedented ways, which means that nonprofits can more effectively utilize the combination of tools that best suits their needs. And we think that’s fantastic.
Recently, Blackbaud hosted a webinar series focused on the ways that organizations using The Raiser’s Edge might benefit from using Salesforce and integrating data between the two systems. This has been posed before as a concept, an idea, or a beautiful dream that never quite looked the same in real life as it does in the imagination. The difficulties of integration definitely drove interest in a single do-all solution for a long time. But that didn’t really pan out so well either – no solution has been able to meet all needs.
Real Integration Is Actually Possible
In some ways, we’re back in the best-of-breed part of the cycle again. But this time it’s different. Instead of going in a flat circle from single-system to best-of-breed and back again, I like to think we’re going up in a spiral, and the view is better from up here. I think that using The Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce in concert is an excellent option for getting closer than ever to realizing the coveted “360 view” of constituent relationships. We’re now in a space where the technology to effectively integrate data is a truly attainable option. If you’re committed to The Raiser’s Edge as your fundraising system, but your program work relies on robust call center and volunteer management, you might use Salesforce for those efforts and capture key data in both systems. If you need to track outcomes of constituent services or conduct case management more efficiently, Salesforce might be an excellent solution. Inevitably, there will be people interested in your programs who also make donations and those people might be in your Raiser’s Edge system. The shifts in today’s technology mean that you can utilize both systems and be more effective across the board.Which brings us that point in the story right before all your dreams come true when it’s important to ask yourself: “Wait, do I actually want all my dreams to come true? What will I do if that happens?”Yes!!! That is the key question that has always been off in the distance:
What would I actually do if I was able to easily share data between my systems?
And that is where the work comes in. But trust us, the work of figuring out how you want to use your data is so much more fun than cleaning up duplicates or manually entering data in multiple systems.
Questions To Ask
Before you even get to the technical stuff, figuring out how to most effectively integrate data will work best if you can hammer out few key non-technical things first. Here are some questions your organization will want to consider when planning an integration between The Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce:
- For each organizational goal, how would a fuller picture of our constituents help us to meet the goal faster or more effectively? What things do not require integrated data?
Even if integration is more attainable than before, you don’t need to bring every data element into both systems. There will be too much clutter to deal with and you’ll end up ignoring all of it. The good news about the technological evolution here (which we’ll cover in more detail in subsequent posts in this series) is that you can be nimble. You don’t have to get weighed down by these questions, but you should be thoughtful and honest. Think of some simple data points from each system that might truly help you achieve a strategic goal and start measuring. If that effort leads to more questions, then carefully choose additional data points and add them to the mix. At the same time, be honest about the great ideas that your organization has neither the resources nor will to accomplish and keep those off the priority list when thinking about integration requirements.
- How do the features of RE and Salesforce align with your users?
The thing about Salesforce and RE is that Salesforce can do a high percentage of what RE does, though the reverse is not true. However, RE is really good for the complex gift management needed to support nonprofit fundraising (and fundraising accounting) and traditional direct mail programs. Those realities make the lines of delineation pretty clear for some orgs. But you should still consider the features sets of both systems carefully, in view of your organization’s particular needs and user base. Do you have any unique fundraising approaches that could benefit from the customizability of Salesforce? Does it make sense to manage some volunteers in Salesforce and others in RE, because of the departments they work with? Would your organization utilize reports more effectively from one system or a combination of both? Too often, these questions are overlooked as people make quick decisions without stepping back and identifying the more effective strategy.
- How will shared data change the way we work together?
It’s wise to think about the nuts and bolts of data governance and how decisions will be made when you’re building your integrations and beyond. Who will make the decisions regarding data use? How will records be matched and duplicates be reconciled? Will everyone get to see everything? These things will come up as part of any project to integrate your systems. The important thing is not to ignore them or put them off for a rainy day. Your data can change the way you work; how you manage that transition determines how much it changes and how easily.
The Bottom Line
The most important takeaway from all this is still very basic. Integration is possible, and can have a dramatic impact on how you serve your mission. To be successful you need to effectively define your strategy and goals first, then find the right technology solution. In the past, we had to make trade-offs between tasks and departments. Going forward we’ll have many more choices, and advanced technology will be able to have a dramatic impact on your organization. It’s important to start considering what is possible and how it could influence your organization’s future.
Open Discussion On Integration
We understand that integrating different systems is complex, and very foreign to many organizations. There are as many possibilities as there are pitfalls when trying to develop a technology solution that serves unique needs. To help organizations understand where to start and how to plan a path forward, Heller Consulting is teaming up with integration experts Omatic Software in an open discussion on integration. Join us September 28 @ 1pm ET and bring your most basic or complex questions on the opportunities and barriers to integrating some of the most powerful tools serving the nonprofit community. We’ll talk about your specific needs, and delve into the opportunities and barriers you’ll face as you consider how these systems can complement each other. We’ll also share ways to test the waters of integration with focused pilot projects designed to prove-or disprove-the value of connected solutions. Reserve your seat now for this limited session.